Dr. Leah Minc

Ph.D., 1994, Anthropology, University of Michigan


M.A., 1982, Anthropology, University of Chicago


A.B., 1977, Archaeology, Douglass College

Political Economy and Exchange in Early Complex Societies

One key application of trace-element data is in monitoring how raw materials and finished goods circulated in prehistory. Archaeologists can source artifacts from their trace-element signature or fingerprint. Once finished artifacts have been linked in their geographic point of origin, mechanisms of trade and exchange, political geography, and social controls over the circulation of goods can be modeled based on the distribution of artifacts from that source.


I am particularly interested in the development of market exchange systems, and the role of elites in regulating market exchange in early states. Although we tend to characterize market exchange as a purely commercial activity, elites frequently intervened in the so-called commercial sector to promote their own agenda. Research on market exchange is on-going in three areas: the core of the Aztec empire, the early Zapotec state in central Oaxaca, and the Bronze Age states of Armenia. In each case, key questions include: What mechanisms existed to regulate access to and control over the flow of goods? And, how did these controls affect the decisions of individual producers and consumers?


Minc, L.D. and R.J. Sherman. Assessing Natural Clay Composition in the Valley of Oaxaca as a Basis for Ceramic Provenance Studies. Accepted by Archaeometry, December, 2009.


Minc, L.D. 2009. A Compositional Perspective on Ceramic Exchange among Late Bronze Age Communities of the Tsaghkahovit Plain, Armenia. In The Archaeology and Geography of Ancient Transcaucasian Societies, edited by A. Smith, R.S. Badalyan, and P. Avetisyan, pp. 381-391. Oriental Institute Press, Chicago.


Minc, L.D. 2009. Style and Substance: Evidence for Regionalization within the Aztec Market System. Latin American Antiquity 20(2): 343-374.


Lindsay, I., L. Minc, C. Descantes, R.J. Speakman, M.D. Glascock. 2008. Exchange Patterns, Boundary Formation, and Sociopolitical Change in Late Bronze Age Southern Caucasia: Preliminary Results from a Pottery Provenance Study in Northwestern Armenia. Journal of Archaeological Science 35: 1673-1682.


Cherry, J.F., E.Z. Faro, and L. Minc. 2008. Field Exploration and Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis of the Obsidian Sources in Southern Armenia. IAOS Bulletin 39: 3-6.


Minc, L.D. 2008. Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA). In Encyclopedia of Archaeology (Vol. 3), edited by D.M. Pearsall. Academic Press, NY, pp. 1669-1683.


Minc, L.D., J.R. Sherman, C. Elson, C.S. Spencer, and E. M. Redmond. 2007. "M Glow Blue": Archaeometric Research at Michigan's Ford Nuclear Reactor, Archaeometry 49(2):215-228


Fowles, S., L.D. Minc, S. Duwe, and D. Hill. 2007. Clay, Conflict, and Village Aggregation: Compositional Analyses of Pre-classic Pottery from Taos, New Mexico. American Antiquity 72(1):125-152.


Minc, L.D. 2006. Monitoring Regional Market Systems in Prehistory: Models, Methods, and Metrics. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 25(1):82-116.


Armitage, R.A., L.D. Minc, D.V. Hill, and S. D. Hurry. 2006. Characterization of Bricks and Tiles from the 17th-century Brick Chapel, St. Mary's City, Maryland. Journal of Archaeological Science 33(5):615-627.


Alden, J. R., L.D. Minc, and T.F. Lynch. 2006. Identifying the sources of Inka period ceramics from northern Chile: results of a neutron activation study. Journal of Archaeological Science 33(4):575-594.


Bray, T.L., L.D. Minc, M. Constanza-Ceruti, R. Perea, J. Reinhard, and J. Chavez. 2005. A

Compositional Analysis of Pottery Vessels Associated with the Inca Ritual of Capacocha. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 24(1):82-100.


Elson, C., R. J. Sherman, L.D. Minc, C.S. Spencer, E.M. Redmond. 2004. Los Resultados Preliminares de Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA) de la ceramica de las fases Monte Alban I y Monte Alban II de los sitios de El Palenque, Cerro Tilcajete y Yaasuchi. In Cuarta Mesa Redonda de Monte Alban, edited by N. Robles-Garcia y R. Spores. Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, Mexico.


Smith, A. T., R. Badalyan, P. Avetisyan, M. Zardarian, A. Hayrepetyan, L. Minc, and B. Monahan. 2003. Early Complex Societies in Southern Transcaucasia: a Preliminary Report on the 2002 Investigations of Project ARAGATS on the Tsakahovit Plain, Republic of Armenia. American Journal of Archaeology 108(1): 1-41.


Michelaki, K., L. Minc, and J. O'Shea. 2002. Integrating Typology and Physico-Chemical Approaches to Examine the Potter's Choices: a Case Study from Bronze Age Hungary, In Modern Trends in Scientific Studies on Ancient Ceramics, ed. by Y. Maniatis and V. Kilikoglou, pp. 313-322, British Archaeological Reports International Series 1011.

OSU Radiation Center


INAA Research Coordinator


A104 Radiation Center, 35th & Jefferson




Email: mincleah@engr.orst.edu

Materials Science in Archaeology


Neutron Activation Analysis for Archaeologists


Quantitative Methods in Archaeology


Introduction to Prehistoric Complex Societies


Mesoamerican Prehistory


Ceramic Analysis


(through OSU Anthropology)

Compositional analyses of archaeological materials play a significant role in the investigation of past human behavior and ancient economies. Through trace-element characterization of artifacts, raw materials, human remains, and botanical samples, archaeologists are able to address a host of questions concerning resource utilization, trade and exchange, subsistence practices, and the environmental adaptations of past cultures.


At OSU, we are fortunate to have ready access to the premier method of trace-element characterization - Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA). I head the INAA program at the Radiation Center (OSU-RC) and serve as liaison to researchers using irradiation facilities and detector instrumentation. I also have an active research program in archaeometry and compositional analysis, through collaboration with faculty researchers at OSU and other academic institutions. Recent and on-going projects include analyses of Colonial-era bricks from Maryland, Aztec ceramics from central Mexico, chert from Idaho, and obsidian from Armenia.

Archaeometry (Materials Science in Archaeology)


Courses Taught

Research Interests

Oregon State University Archaeometry Lab


Quality trace-element analysis for research and conservation.